When Brett Young set out to make his first Christmas album in 2021, he had a unique problem to deal with: He shares a first name with the singer who’s arguably the country crooner king of Christmas, Brett Eldredge.
Eldredge’s first holiday album, Glow, became an instant classic when he released it in 2016, and he’s gone on to plan annual holiday tours with the same name in the years since. In 2020, Eldredge recorded a Christmas duet with Kelly Clarkson; this year, he put out a brand-new project called Mr. Christmas.
Sharing a name with Mr. Christmas himself can be a lot of pressure. But Young says that when he got the chance to check out Eldredge’s new record, he was amazed to find that they’d each gone after a different approach on their respective albums.
“The coolest thing about the way it went down is, I saw his track listing, and we don’t have any repeats [of songs between the two albums],” he explained during a recent press event. “So Brett can have his lane and I can do my first Christmas album, and we’re not stepping on any toes.”
For Young, his interpretation of a Christmas album meant picking his favorites — “the classics that I grew up listening to,” he explains. The eight-song collection is titled Brett Young & Friends Sing the Christmas Classics, and it’s a duets project, with featured guests like Maddie & Tae, Darius Rucker and Colbie Caillat. Young says that aspect of the project unfolded organically, without him necessarily setting out to make a collaboration album.
“We didn’t know it was gonna be an ‘& Friends’ until everybody started signing on,” he recounts. “…It was a super flattering process, because you kind of expect everybody to say no, because it’s weird to sing on a Christmas album in January. But everybody signed on and we got everybody we asked for, and I just tried to pick my favorite Christmas songs.”
In fact, it wasn’t until he started making the record that Young realized that some of the songs he considers childhood classics aren’t necessarily the ones that everyone else grew up knowing and loving. For example, he recorded a version of “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late),” from Christmas With the Chipmunks, with his longtime producer Dann Huff.
“This was just me being totally self-involved, I guess, but I thought that everybody had the Chipmunks Christmas record playing on vinyl every year during Christmas. That’s what I thought, because that’s what we did every year,” he recounts.
It wasn’t until after he’d had the idea to collaborate with Huff on the song — and after Huff laid down his guitar part for the track — that Young realized it was brand-new material to Huff.
“He didn’t know anything about it,” Young continues. “His wife came up…and he was like, ‘You know this?’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, of course. Everybody knows this.’ He’s like, ‘I’ve never heard this before.’ But he played the guitar part perfect, and it just seemed like because the melody was so fun and fluid, it seemed like the right song to let him take a whole verse and play the melody on guitar. He’s such an incredible guitar player.”
As one of two country singers named Brett who are releasing Christmas music these days, though, Young has a unique appreciation for the ability to make music in creative, unique ways, and he’s already cooking up a true-to-his-childhood way to keep fans guessing.
“We actually flirted with the idea of redoing the whole Chipmunks record — but then we realized that would be ridiculous,” he adds with a laugh. “So we did one song.”